Phi Beta Cons

Re: Penn State’s ‘Historic’ Budget Cut

Last week I wrote on “Penn State’s ‘Historic’ Budget Cut,” pointing out that Graham Spanier, the president, has been engaging in histrionics and avoiding a hard accounting after Gov. Tom Corbett announced an aid cut that will require the school to slim it’s overall budget by less than 4 percent. A reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, e-mailed in response:

I have no insights into the process of either the state or the university budgets, just a few observations:

  • When Gov. Corbett announced his budget, the reaction on Facebook was an outstanding example of watching someone get their ox gored.  One person not only accused the governor of killing higher education in Pennsylvania, but asked anyone who voted for him to house her and her dog “when the inevitable happens.”

  • This past Monday, a number of faculty, staff and students went to Harrisburg for a rally to save the appropriation.  This was rather farcical, since the previous week the faculty and staff had gotten an email from President Spanier announcing a salary freeze.  And if the students think that restoring the appropriation to its 2010 level would keep a tuition increase from happening, they haven’t looked at the last thirty years of tuition at Penn State.

  • (President Spanier’s email talking about shared burdens was rather rich, considering he received a higher raise, both in dollars and percentage, than anyone else at the university last year.)

  • Finally, I hate to nitpick, but you yourself buried the lede in your Phi Beta Cons post.  There are a lot of organizations out there which would love to be able to say “our revenue this year only went down 4%”.  By giving prominence to the proposed 53% reduction in the appropriation, you give ammunition to the folks who want to distort the numbers.

Personally, I’m glad someone is holding Penn State’s feet to the fire. There is a lot of fat in the budget that can be trimmed without reducing their educational mission. I fear that the usual tactic of “cutting firefighters and police” will be employed.

Astute points, particularly in regard to my poor framing of the real impact of the appropriation cut. If the sentiments of this reader are at all alike other observers in the Keystone State, Governor Corbett may have the wind at his back in this fight.

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